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Preserving the Magic: 5 ways restaurants scam customers and how to rise above.

Restaurants are a special sort of magic. We who spend our days cooking, serving, and managing restaurants give people the opportunity to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life for an hour or two for good food, good drink, and good company. Unfortunately, every so often human nature intervenes, restaurants slip into shady business practices, and the magic disappears. At first, it seems harmless: you allow your servers to tell little white lies, and before you know it, your entire business is just a front for a large-scale money laundering operation. This, of course, is a vast exaggeration, but the point stands. As soon as the seed of deception is planted, it takes root and grows like a weed. We’ve put together a list of scams that restaurants often pull on their guests. Take a moment to look it over and make sure that all of your current practices are above-board and beyond reproach.

1. The Upsell: This is one of the oldest tricks in the server handbook. A guest orders one thing and the server suggests something (expensive) as an accompaniment. It seems pretty innocuous, but can actually result in some pretty shocking final tabs, especially when alcohol sales are involved. This practice is actually encouraged in most restaurants, and can be harmless. However, when servers use it to take advantage of inexperienced diners, your guests will leave feeling sickened, robbed, and unlikely to return.

2. The extra drink: Sneaky servers have been known to add extra drinks onto the tabs of unsuspecting guests. When reviewing the tab, the guest is unlikely to notice the charge, or will assume that they forgot about it. The server then either drinks it himself or pockets the extra money. If you notice any of your employees doing this, fire them. Immediately.

3. The added tip: This is a really ballsy trick that servers use to increase their personal earnings. When going over your receipts, look out for crossed out numbers, different ink colors, and handwriting. If you have any question, go first to the server. If you are still unsatisfied, call the guest to verify the tip amount. Your customers will appreciate your diligence.

4. “Fresh, local, organic”: So many restaurants have been busted lately for boasting about serving only fresh, local, organic products, only to be caught red-handed, dishing up frozen produce from some giant manufacturer. This is just bad business. If you don’t have the time to source your products from local, organic growers, fine. Just don’t lie about it.

5. “Fresh fish”: Many restaurants have also been caught recently, advertising a specific, high quality fish on the menu and actually serve something much cheaper from the freezer. These folks assume that their patrons won’t know the difference. (And many of them won’t). Either way, this is a scam. Take the high road, and just don’t lie.

Don’t be a jerk. Life is hard, and as members of the restaurant industry, it is our job to give our guests the opportunity to escape for an hour or two without having to worry about whether or not they are being taken advantage of. Get to know your employees. Make sure that you hire people that you can trust, and be involved enough to know what is happening under your own roof. Everyone needs a little magic. Don’t be the guy that takes it away from the rest of us! We would love to hear your thoughts. What are some scams you’ve heard about that restaurants pull on their customers? Feel free to leave a comment below.